It is very unnatural for most women to have six pack abs while maintaining a healthy relationship with food and exercise.
This is because women generally need a body fat percentage of at least 20% in order to remain fertile and have regular menstrual cycles. This is in comparison to men, who can get as low as 6% body fat and still remain in the "healthy" category.
Yes, there are some exceptions to this - some women have a more muscular build, or a naturally low body fat level that allows for their abdominal muscles to be visible.
Unfortunately, the heroin-chic look of the 90’s morphed into the equally unattainable “strong is the new skinny” and “fitspiration” trend plastered all over social media today.
Achieving visible abs as a woman is basically the gold standard of fitness.
How do I know?
I too, once achieved this gold standard, and would receive raving comments about my “six pack abs” every time I wore a bathing suit.
People assumed I possessed tons of core strength and wanted to know my “secret”. They assumed I took incredible care of my body and made comments of envy, like “I want your abs!” because, you know, strong IS the new skinny...right?
I would smile and say thank you, a little flattered and a little embarrassed. Mostly though, I just felt like a big phony. I often imagined the response I would get if I answered those envious questions with the truth.
What would people say if I told them that my "secret" to getting six-pack abs was running 6 miles a day on less than 1,000 calories? Or drinking diet coke to suppress my hunger? Or stuffing myself with fibrous vegetables until my stomach hurt so that I wouldn’t have room for the food I actually wanted?
No one wanted to hear that. They wanted to hear about the green juice, and the farm fresh produce, and how “amazing” it felt to be so healthy.
Except I wasn’t healthy. I actually felt like shit; but the constant positive reinforcement I received made it nearly impossible for me to regain true health.
I liked feeling powerful; I had found the one thing that I was awesome at. I harbored this secret out of shame, but also because I wouldn’t dare suggest anyone bring the same pain onto themselves that I had.
Hopefully at this point you know that i’m not ever going to tell you how to get six-pack abs. If that is legitimately what you are looking for, this article is not for you.
In my opinion, any fitness article that says that doing “x” will give you a six-pack is straight up lying. So instead, here are some truths:
- Having a six-pack is not necessarily a sign of health.
- Having a six-pack is not necessarily a sign of strength.
- Having a six-pack is not necessarily a sign of happiness, or joy, or ambition, or literally anything else besides having a low body fat percentage and/ or the genetics for it.
And while i’m telling the truth, here are some more.
- When I stopped running excessively and started eating (a lot) more, my six-pack became (much) less visible.
- Despite this, my core strength has increased significantly
- I generally have good energy, sleep well, and don’t get hangry
- I know that I am infinitely healthier, despite the fact that random people don’t comment on my abs or ask me for my fitness routine.
This is not to say that I think there is anything inherently wrong with wanting ripped abs, or whatever aesthetic goal it is that you want.
However in my experience, most people (myself included) believe that achieving six-pack abs will result in things like increased health, success, confidence and love. I believe this is also the message that most health and fitness brands, products, and “fitspo” portray. These messages are lies.
Behind (almost) every fitness model is someone who has overtrained and under-eaten for months to prepare for that photoshoot. They probably missed social events, and even missed out on friendships and relationships to pursue their aesthetic goals. They are also spray-tanned, flexed, and photoshopped to perfection. They are not real life.
Behind every pair of six-pack abs may be an ugly, unglamorous truth about what happens when the pursuit of “health” is taken too far. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having this look, and to each their own, but we MUST remove the "health halo" around women who achieve it, and understand that this is not a realistic or healthy "goal" for most women.
Tell me - do you aspire to have six-pack abs? Or do you find these images to be unrealistic and unattainable?